Monday, December 29, 2014


Bubby Brister had a decent little run as the Steelers' starting quarterback in the late '80s and early '90s.  He led the Steelers to a Wild Card upset of the Houston Oilers in 1989, giving the legendary Chuck Noll his final playoff victory.  Eventually Bubby would settle into a long, fruitful career as an NFL backup.  His most notable stop was in Denver, where he would win two Super Bowls while holding John Elway's clipboard.  He finished his 14-year career with the Vikings in 2000 as a veteran presence behind first-year starter Daunte Culpepper.


MarQueis Gray is a supremely talented athlete who has shown great versatility over his young football career.  Recruited as a quarterback, he began his collegiate career at the University of Minnesota as a wide receiver before taking the reins from Adam Weber.  Gray pulled in 42 catches for 587 yards and five touchdowns as a sophomore, then switched to quarterback full-time as a junior.  He had a nice all-around junior season, with 1,495 passing yards, 966 rushing yards, and 14 total touchdowns (eight passing, six rushing).  Still, he split his senior year between quarterback and wideout.

Undrafted out of college, Gray's caught on with the Cleveland Browns in 2013 and spent the season learning the H-back and tight end positions.  He was brought back to Minnesota prior to this past season and made the Vikings as a backup tight end.  Gray appeared in eight games for the Vikings, catching one pass.  He was claimed off waivers by the Buffalo Bills and finished out the season with them.


David Cobb might symbolize the resurgence of the Gophers football program more than any other player.  He has been overshadowed his entire career.  Even this year, as he broke the school's all-time single-season rushing record, he was overshadowed by three other backs in his own conference when considered for national post-season honors.  No matter.  Cobb has been spectacular for the past two seasons.  In a few days, the team MVP leads the University of Minnesota into its first New Year's Day bowl game in 53 years.  That will be a fitting end to the collegiate career of an all-time great Golden Gopher.


I became a big Allan Anderson fan in the late 1980s, probably because he was such an unlikely star.  Although he was a second-round draft pick in 1982, he never did anything to set the minor leagues on fire.  When he debuted with the Twins in 1986, he was a soft-tossing lefty who looked overwhelmed against big league hitters.  In fact, he was pretty atrocious in both the majors and minors for most of 1986 and 1987.

Following the 1987 World Series (Anderson was not a part of the post-season roster), Anderson was removed from the Twins' 40 man roster.  Every other team in baseball had a shot at him, and they all passed.  After a nice start to the 1988 season at Triple-A Portland, Anderson was added to the Twins' rotation at the end of April.  He pitched surprisingly well for through mid-June -- good enough to keep his spot in the rotation anyway.  Superstar teammate Frank Viola was dominating the AL, on his way to 24 wins and the Cy Young Award.  Anderson quietly mirrored Viola's steady control and usurped future Hall of Famer Bert Blyleven as the Twins' #2 starter.

The defending champion Twins were in a tight pennant race with the Oakland A's all summer long.  With pinpoint control, Anderson was one of the biggest reasons why the Twins were able to remain in contention into September.  While his mentor Viola ran away with the Cy Young award, Anderson closed the season with a three-hit shutout against the A's to lock up the AL ERA title.

In 1989, the wheels fell off for the Twins.  Viola got off to a rough start and was eventually traded to the New York Mets.  With Blyleven and Viola both gone, Anderson was suddenly thrust into the ace role.  He responded with a career-high 17 wins, though his ERA jumped over a full run, to 3.80.

He had a remarkable two-year run, but Anderson came crashing back to Earth in 1990, with a 7-18 record and 4.53 ERA.  Things got even worse in 1991.  While the Twins were on their way to another World Series title, Anderson lost his rotation spot during the summer and was, once again, left off the post-season roster.  He would never again appear in the majors.

Monday, December 15, 2014


13 of the 20 members of the 1980 "Miracle On Ice" US Olympic hockey team were born in Minnesota.  13 of the 20 went on to play in the NHL.  Bill Baker fit into both groups.  After a legendary career at the University of Minnesota, Baker joined his coach Herb Brooks and several of his teammates on the Olympic squad.  His biggest claim to fame in Lake Placid was scoring the game-tying goal late against Sweden in the opening game.  After turning pro, Baker played for four NHL franchises over a three-year career.

Sunday, December 14, 2014


In reality, only three years passed from the time Roy Smalley was traded until Greg Gagne took hold of the Twins shortstop job.  But for those of us who watched the likes of Lenny Faedo, Ron Washington, Chris Speier, and Alvaro Espinoza get trial runs, it felt like an eternity.  One of the guys who got the biggest auditions was Houston Jimenez, a free agent from Mexico City.

Jimenez, had an all-glove, no-bat skill set, but his glove didn't really play in the big leagues.  In two years with the Twins, he threw up an abysmal .195/.231/.257 slash line at the plate, and ranked as a below-average defender.  So speed must have been his game, right?  Wrong.  0 for 2 in career stolen base attempts.  In fact, Jimenez's most memorable moment as a major league ballplayer was staring at the Metrodome ceiling, waiting for Dave Kingman's pop-up to come down (which it never did).


A 2003 inductee into the US Hockey Hall of Fame, Dick Dougherty teamed with the great John Mayasich, under the guidance of John Mariucci, to create the golden age of Golden Gophers hockey in the 1950s.  Dougherty finished his Gophers career second only to Mayasich in career points (in the 60 years that have passed, he has dropped to tenth on the list).  He was a part of the Gophers' first two WCHA championship teams, was a first-team All-American in 1954, and won a Silver Medal as a member of the 1956 US Olympic team.

Monday, December 1, 2014


Yet another Green Bay Packers great who wrapped up his career in Vikings purple, Paul Coffman was an undrafted free agent out of Kansas State who worked his way to three Pro Bowls and a spot in the Packers Hall of Fame.  Coffman teamed with wide receivers James Lofton and John Jefferson to give quarterback Lynn Dickey an explosive aerial arsenal for the Packers squads of the early 1980s.  He was a Pro Bowl selection from 1982-1984 and is arguably the best tight end in Packers history.  After years of tormenting the Vikings, Coffman joined them for his final season in 1988.  He played in eight games for the Vikings and did not catch a pass.

Sunday, November 30, 2014


Hey, remember when Spud Webb played for the Timberwolves?  I don't blame you if you don't -- it was easy to miss.

Spud became an NBA phenomenon in the mid '80s after winning the 1986 Slam Dunk Contest.  He was known more for his height and dunking ability during the peak of his popularity with the Atlanta Hawks.  The best statistical years of his career came with the Sacramento Kings in the early 1990s.  He briefly returned to the Hawks in 1995 and at the 1995-96 trade deadline, he was shipped to the Wolves in a deal for Christian Laettner.


Danny Goodwin made history in 1975 when he became the first (and only) player to be drafted first overall in two separate years.  Originally selected with the top pick in 1971 by the White Sox, Goodwin opted to play college ball for Southern University and A&M.  After a brilliant career there -- one that would gain him enshrinement to the National College Baseball Hall of Fame in 2011 -- he was taken by the Angels with the first pick in the 1975 draft.  The Twins acquired Goodwin in 1978.  He spent three years in Minnesota as a part-time DH, first baseman, and pinch hitter.

Monday, November 24, 2014


The late Gene Mauch spent 26 seasons as a major league manager.  His 1,902 career wins are the most of any skipper in history who never guided a team to the World Series, and the most of any manager who is not enshrined in Cooperstown.

Mauch spent five of those 26 seasons with the Twins, managing his nephew Roy Smalley.  Despite consistently losing his best players (Bert Blyleven, Bill Campbell, Lyman Bostock, Rod Carew) due to penny-pinching ownership, Mauch kept the Twins competitive.  They finished over .500 in three of his four full seasons.  The wheels fell off in 1980, though, and with the team at 54-71 in August, Mauch resigned.

Sunday, November 23, 2014


Danny Walton was a magnificent power prospect.  He was the Sporting News' Minor League Player of the Year in 1969 while in the Houston Astros organization.  Near the end of that season, he was traded to the expansion Seattle Pilots.  In 1970, when the Pilots relocated to Milwaukee and became the Brewers, Walton was a leading contender for the AL Rookie of the Year Award during the first half of the season.  He tore up his knee during the season and, even though he played through it, he was never the same.  He spent the rest of the decade as the ultimate journeyman, appearing with five more major league teams and even spending some time in Japan.

Walton only hit .176 over his big league stints with the Twins in 1973 and 1975.  In 1974, he spent the entire season at AAA Tacoma and smashed 35 homers and 109 RBI.  Three years later, he would blast 42 homers while in the Dodgers' system.  Despite all of his ability and raw power, he would total only 28 home runs in 297 games over a nine-year major league career.

Sunday, November 16, 2014


Big Brad Brown was a physical defenseman with one job: play tough.  In 138 games over three seasons with the Wild, he totaled six points (all assists) and 267 penalty minutes.  Brown also appeared in eleven playoff games during the Wild's surprise run to the 2003 Western Conference Finals -- the only playoff experience of his seven-year NHL career.

Saturday, November 15, 2014


Almost all of Gary Cuozzo's statistics during his four years as a Viking are underwhelming.  It took him 33 games to amass 3,552 passing yards.  He completed less than 50% of his passes.  He had a 18:23 touchdown:interception ratio and a 63.6 quarterback rating.

But when it comes to the only stat that truly matters, Cuozzo is at the top.  His .762 career winning percentage as a starting quarterback (16-5) is the best in Vikings history among players who started as many games as he did.  (Jeff George had an .800 percentage, but in only ten games.)

These days we would call Cuozzo a game manager -- a quarterback who plays just well enough to not lose and lets the defense and running game lead his team to the win.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014


Andy Maurer joined the Vikings midway through the 1974 season and was quickly installed as a starter on their offensive line.  By the end of the season, he was starting a left guard against the Steel Curtain in Super Bowl IX.  It was the first of two Super Bowls in which Maurer appeared (he also played for the Broncos against the Cowboys in Super Bowl XII).


John Verhoeven was a journeyman, rubber-armed relief pitcher who was a valuable part of the Twins' bullpen in the early 1980s.  He was never much of a strikeout pitcher, but posted nearly identical ERAs and WHIPs during his time with the Twins.  Since retiring he has put together a long career as a college pitching coach and manager.


Mike Cubbage arrived in Minnesota during the 1976 season, along with Roy Smalley, in the Bert Blyleven trade with the Rangers.  For five years, the solid contact-hitter was a fixture at the hot corner for the Twins.  After finishing his playing career with the Mets, Cubbage remained in their organization for the next decade and a half as a minor league manager and big league coach.  He also had major league coaching stints with the Astros and Red Sox, and currently serves as a big league scout for the Tampa Bay Rays.  Mike Cubbage: baseball lifer.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014


The Vikings made Brad Edwards their second round draft pick in 1988.  He started six games at free safety during his rookie season, but by 1989 he was buried on the depth chart and labeled a bust.  He signed with Washington in 1990 and by 1991 he was starting in the secondary for one of the best teams in the league.  He and the Redskins would win the Super Bowl that season by demolishing the Buffalo Bills in Minneapolis.  In his triumphant return to the Metrodome, Edwards intercepted two Jim Kelly passes on football's biggest stage.


Big Butch Huskey was a strong man who had a decent five-year career with the Mets in the mid '90s.  By the time he signed with the Twins in 2000, though, he was on his fourth team in less than two years while trying to salvage his big league career.  Without question, Huskey's most memorable Twins moment came in 1999 while playing against them as a member of the Seattle Mariners.  During the notorious "Turn The Clock Forward" uniform game, he chased a Jacque Jones fly ball face-first into the left field wall.  Classic Huskey.


Following a standout college career at Arizona State, Darrell Jackson only pitched in ten minor league games before getting the call to the Twins in 1978.  He split time between the majors and minors over his first two years.  In 1980, he broke through with career-best numbers across the board: 172 innings, nine wins, and a 3.87 ERA.  Though it's not saying much, he was one of the most promising arms on the Twins staff.  Unfortunately, a shoulder injury knocked him out in 1981 and his career was never the same.  He tried coming back the next year, but was released in July after going 0-5 with a 6.25 ERA.

Sunday, November 2, 2014


Northern Iowa native Mike Stensrud was drafted by the Houston Oilers in 1979 and spent seven solid season with them.  He returned to the upper midwest with the Vikings in 1986, starting four games in a nose tackle platoon with Tim "The Icebox" Newton.

Friday, October 31, 2014


I've written in several places of the role the 1984 Twins played in cultivating my lifelong love affair with baseball.  The first team I remember vaguely following was the 1982 version of the Twins, which lost 102 games but featured a rookie class of Kent Hrbek, Gary Gaetti, Tom Brunansky, Randy Bush, Frank Viola, Jim Eisenreich, and Tim Laudner.

The 1984 team was the first competitive Twins team of my lifetime.  They finished 81-81, missing the playoffs by just a handful of games.  1984 featured the debut of a speedy centerfielder named Kirby Puckett and an MVP-deserving season from Kent Hrbek.  But the biggest reason for the Twins sudden transformation to contenders was the emergence of a decent starting rotation.  Viola blossomed into an ace that year, but the next two spots in the rotation were solidified by a couple of guys who were acquired in the offseason.  In December of 1983, power-hitting outfielder Gary Ward was traded to the Texas Rangers for pitchers Mike Smithson and John Butcher.

Neither had much of a track record in Texas.  Butcher spent the majority of his four years with the Rangers as a swingman.  Meanwhile 6'8" former Tennessee Volunteers basketball star Mike Smithson (the tallest player in the league for most of his career) was coming off a 10-14 mark in his first full season.  Both accumulated well over 200 innings, double-digit win totals, and sub-4.00 ERAs for the Twins in '84.

As for Smithson, he was never a great pitcher, but he was extremely dependable.  From 1984-1986, he was good for about 36 starts, 250 innings and 15 wins each year.  His ERA would rise and his strikeout totals would drop each season, but he was there every fifth day.  Unfortunately for Big Mike, everything gave out during the Twins historic 1987 season.  His ERA ballooned to 5.94 and his record fell to 4-7.  He spent part of the season in the minors (for the first time since 1982), and was ultimately left off the post-season roster during the Twins' run to the World Series.


I still remember the injury.  In 1989, Keith Millard was the most dominating defensive force in the NFL.  His 18 quarterback sacks that season is a record that still stands for a defensive tackle.  He was named the NFL Defensive Player of the Year and earned his second consecutive first-team All-Pro selection.  Under drill-sergeant defensive coordinator Floyd Peters and next to future Hall of Famer Chris Doleman, world-class run-stuffer Henry "Hardware Hank" Thomas, and pass-rush specialist Al Noga, the '89 Vikings defensive line was the best in the game and had Minnesotans drawing comparisons to the Purple People Eaters.

If not for the injury, there is no doubt in my mind that Keith Millard would be right next to his longtime teammate Doleman in Canton.  Four weeks into the 1990 season, though, his knee was obliterated in a game that the Vikings eventually lost to the lowly Tampa Bay Buccaneers.  Millard never again played for the Vikings.  He fought hard to return, but it took him two years to get back into the NFL.  In 1992 he got into two games for the Packers, got released, and got into two more games with the Seahawks.  In 1993, he managed to stay in the league all year for the Eagles, but was a shell of his former self.  That was curtains for the career of a man who was on his way to being mentioned in the same breath as Alan Page and John Randle among Vikings defensive tackles.


Theo Ratliff was one of the premier shot-blockers of his era.  In the early 2000s, during his time with the Philadelphia 76ers and Atlanta Hawks, he established himself as one of the best centers in the NBA.  He was a 2001 NBA All Star, was selected for two league All-Defensive Second Teams, and led the league in blocks three times.  By the time he came to Minnesota in the Kevin Garnett trade, he was on the downside of his career.  He was 34 and coming off a major injury that limited him to two games with the Celtics the previous season.  He was expected to provide veteran leadership to the rebuilding, KG-less Wolves, but additional injuries limited him to only ten games as a member of the team.  He was waived in February and quickly signed with the Detroit Pistions, for whom he began his fine career back in 1995.


After a dominating three-plus years in the minors, Frank Eufemia was called up in May of 1985 to help solidify the Twins' struggling bullpen.  He was arguably their most consistent relief pitcher the rest of the way, going 4-2 with two saves and a 3.79 ERA.  And, strangely, that one solid season at the age of 25 was it for Eufemia's MLB career.  He was back at Triple-A Toledo in 1986 and never again reached the big leagues.

On a personal note, I was thrilled to get this card back from Mr. Eufemia.  I'm also grateful that he added a signed 1986 Topps rookie card (which I did not send to him).  I was a bit disappointed, though, that he kept the 1983 Visalia Oaks and 1986 Toledo Mud Hens minor league cards I sent, as they were for two projects I am working on (the 1983 Fritsch Visalia team set and the 1986 ProCards Project).  If anyone has signed or unsigned copies of these cards out there, please let me know!

Monday, October 27, 2014


Originally drafted by Minnesota in 1969, Gilles Gilbert spent most of his North Stars career buried behind Cesare Maniago and Gump Worsley on the depth chart.  Following the 1972-73 season, Gilbert was traded to Boston for Fred Stanfield in one of the worst deals in club history.  Stanfield would only last in Minnesota for a year and a half.  Meanwhile, Gilbert blossomed into an All Star goaltender for the Bruins, enjoying his peak years while the North Stars were running out the likes of Pete LoPresti, Paul Harrison, and Fern Rivard.

Also of note: check out that signature!  Gilles Gilbert is the Harmon Killebrew of hockey autographs.


Neil Elshire was a 6'6" undrafted free agent from Oregon who made the Vikings roster in 1981.  After two years as a sparsely used backup, Elshire broke through for 9.5 quarterback sacks in 1983.  Over his six year NFL career, which was spent entirely in Minnesota, Elshire accumulated 19 sacks, four fumble recoveries, and - perhaps most impressive - a safety against the legendary 1985 Chicago Bears.


After four seasons in Buffalo and one in Carolina, Minnesota native Corbin Lacina signed with his hometown Vikings in 1999.  The versatile lineman settled in as the starting right guard in 2000, helping the Vikings to the NFC Championship Game.


Current Anaheim Ducks head coach Bruce Boudreau split the 1975-76 hockey season between the Minnesota Fighting Saints and the Johnstown Jets.  The Jets were the inspiration for the greatest sports film of all-time, Slap Shot, and Boudreau even had a cameo in the movie as one of the Charlestown Chiefs' opponents.

After a long minor league playing career, Boudreau embarked on a far more successful coaching career.  He won the Jack Adams Award as the NHL's best coach after his first season behind the Washington Capitals bench in 2007-08.  Since then, he has won six division titles in seven seasons as an NHL head coach (four with Washington and two with Anaheim).

Saturday, October 18, 2014


Herb Carneal was the voice of my childhood.


Terry Allen turned out to be a pretty nice little ninth round draft pick for the Vikings.  He filled in for Herschel Walker near the end of the 1991 season.  In 1992, he seized the starting running back gig and put together one of the finest all-around seasons in team history (1,201 rushing yards, 49 receptions for 478 yards, 15 total touchdowns).  A pre-season knee injury cost him all of 1993, but he returned in 1994 with another 1,000 yard season.  His NFL comeback was punctuated with an incredible 1,353 yard and 21 touchdown season for Washington in 1996.


Scott Brooks came to the Timberwolves prior to their second season to serve as the backup to point guard Pooh Richardson.  For two years under Bill Musselman, Brooks' hustle made him a fan favorite.  He moved on to Houston and won an NBA title with the Rockets in 1994.  These days, of course, he's best known as the head coach of the perennial contender Oklahoma City Thunder.


Catcher Joe McCabe signed with the Washington Senators in 1960, one year before the franchise moved to Minnesota.  After spending four years in the Twins system, he finally made it the the show in 1964.  In fourteen games as a Twin, he only stepped up to the plate 21 times.  Following the season, McCabe was dealt to the new Washington Senators (the team that would eventually become the Texas Rangers).

Tuesday, October 7, 2014


Journeyman Milan Marcetta made his NHL debut as a 30-year-old rookie during the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1967.  His only regular season games in the NHL came with the North Stars during their first two years of existence.  Milan sadly passed away in September 2014, just shy of his 78th birthday.


I gave the Twins plenty of crap for their Sam Fuld acquisition this past spring.  My argument was that they already had a younger, cheaper version of him in Alex Presley, who they let go for nothing during spring training.  But I'll be the first to admit that I was wrong.  Fuld was fantastic during his brief tenure as a Twin.  And even though Tommy Milone struggled mightily after arriving from Oakland in exchange for Fuld at the trade deadline, he's still a left-handed starting pitcher with a somewhat proven track record.  Hopefully the new Twins regime can salvage Milone -- it would make for quite a nice return for a few months of Sam Fuld.


Tim Irwin, a 6'7" 300 pound mountain of a man, was an anchor of the Vikings' offensive line for thirteen years.  From the time I discovered football until the time I started driving, Irwin was a model of consistency and class.  He was a powerful blocker and, at his height, he managed to get his paws on quite a few opposing kicks over his career.  In 2011, he was voted as one of the All-Time 50 Greatest Vikings.

Always one of the more insightful voices in the Vikings locker room, Irwin earned his law degree near the end of his football career.  He opened his own practice after retiring from football, and is presently a juvenile court judge in Knoxville, Tennesee.


Henry Boucha was one of the greatest hockey talents the state of Minnesota has ever produced.  The Warroad native and full-blooded Ojibwa is widely regarded as one of the finest high school players in state history.  After a Silver Medal winning performance with the 1972 US Olympic Team, he quickly established himself as a star for the Detroit Red Wings.  Boucha was traded home to Minnesota in 1974, but less than a year into his North Stars career, tragedy struck.  During a game against the Boston Bruins, Boucha took Dave Forbes' stick in his eye.  He missed the rest of the season, and never fully recovered.  He did briefly play with the WHA's Minnesota Fighting Saints in 1975-76 (and averaged a point per game).  He returned to the NHL later that year with the Kansas City Scouts/Colorado Rockies franchise, but by the age of 25, Boucha was out of pro hockey.


A physical, stay-at-home defenseman over the first decade of North Stars hockey, Tom Reid is better known to the last two generations of Minnesota hockey fans as a broadcaster.  He served in that role for the North Stars after his playing career ended, and he has been the Wild's radio analyst from their inception.  He also is the proprietor of the finest sports bar in town -- Tom Reid's Hockey City Pub, just down the street from the Xcel Center.

Monday, October 6, 2014


The Timberwolves chose Donyell Marshall with the fourth pick in the 1994 NBA Draft.  As usual, the Wolves were one pick away from superstardom.  The first three picks in that season's draft were perennial All-Star Glenn Robinson and future Hall of Famers Jason Kidd and Grant Hill.  Marshall was the best of the rest after a superb college career at UConn.  Marshall's Wolves career lasted just 40 games, but can hardly be considered a failure -- at midseason he was traded straight-up to Golden State for Tom Gugliotta.  Googs would become the first All-Star in Wolves history and would team with Kevin Garnett and Stephon Marbury to give them their first winning season and playoff appearance.


I have always been a big Rich Gannon fan.  For a few years in the late '80s, "Gannon the Cannon" was a distant third on the Vikings quarterback depth chart behind veterans Wade Wilson and Tommy Kramer.  He was a pre-season phenom for at leas a couple of those years, with his powerful arm and great athleticism.  He was finally given a chance to play regularly in 1990, and eventually spent three years as the Viking primary starting quarterback.  He went 8-4 over his twelve starts in 1992, but was shipped to Washington after the season when the Vikings opted to sign the aging and injury prone Jim McMahon.

Following tenures in Washington and Kansas City, Gannon blossomed under Jon Gruden in Oakland.  He went to four consecutive Pro Bowls for the Raiders from 1999-2002.  He was a first-team NFL All-Pro selection in 2000 and 2002.  In 2002, he led the league with 4,689 passing yards, was named the AP NFL MVP, and led the Raiders to the Super Bowl.


Corey Fuller was a vital and underrated piece on the 15-1 Vikings team of 1998.  While newcomer Jimmy Hitchcock received many accolades that season by returning three of his team-leading seven interceptions for touchdowns, Fuller emerged as a shut-down corner on the left side, nabbing four picks of his own.  Fuller signed a big free agent deal with the Browns following that season, leaving a massive hole in the Vikings secondary.  All told, Fuller spent ten years in the NFL.  He has been coaching ever since, and is currently in his first season as the defensive backs coach for Florida A&M University.


Ron Vander Kelen was the MVP of the 1963 Rose Bowl after leading his Wisconsin Badgers to a dramatic victory over USC.  That fall, he made the Vikings roster as an undrafted rookie.  Vander Kelen backed up Fran Tarkenton for four years, appearing in 18 games from 1963-1966.  When Tarkenton was traded to the Giants following the 1966 season, Vander Kelen was given a chance to compete for the starting quarterback job.  He won the gig, but after starting the season 0-3 he was replaced by Joe Kapp.

Thursday, October 2, 2014


Craig Falkman had a wonderful collegiate career for his hometown University of Minnesota Golden Gophers in the mid 1960s.  He was a second-team All-WCHA selection as a junior in 1963-64 and was named an ACHA West All-American that same year.  He served as a Gophers captain during his senior season in 1964-65.  A few years later, after playing in the USHL for a couple of seasons, he was part of the United States 1968 Olympic Team in Grenoble.  Falkman never played in the NHL, but he did appear in 45 games for the WHA's Minnesota Fighting Saints in 1972-73.

Thursday, September 25, 2014


Grizzled vet Mike Jackson was a huge influence on the bullpen of the 2002 Twins, and one of the unsung heroes of that first post-season team of the decade.  He teamed with Eddie Guardado, LaTroy Hawkins, and J.C. Romero to give the Twins an elite relief corps that season.  (His one-time protege Hawkins is now on the cusp of joining him in the exclusive 1,000 games-pitched club.)  Following that memorable season, Jackson elected to retire.  After a year off, he resurfaced with the White Sox in 2004 for one final big league season.


The Twins' first-round draft pick in 1990, Todd Ritchie struggled mightily for most of seven years in the minors.  In 1997, he was out of minor league options so the Twins decided to give him a shot in the majors.  He appeared in 42 nondescript games that season and split 1998 between the Twins and the Salt Lake Buzz.  Following that season, the Twins cut bait.  He signed a minor league deal with the Pittsburgh Pirates and turned his career around with a sparkling 15 win season.  He was never a great pitcher, but Ritchie was able to persevere and carve out a nice, eight-year MLB career.


Danny Santana, an infielder throughout his minor league career, was promoted to the big leagues in May and installed as the Twins regular center fielder.  He has not stopped hitting.  Over his brief big league career, he has been one of the most effective and exciting leadoff batters in the American League.  Although he has logged most of his major league innings in the outfield, he appears to be the Twins' regular shortstop for years to come.


Over 100 cards and autographs into this project, I still had not added any from players on active rosters of the local teams.  Enter Kennys Vargas and Danny Santana.  Two of the few bright spots in another disappointing Twins season, these exciting rookies made an appearance at Fan HQ in Minnetonka on September 20.

Vargas made his Target Field debut at the 2014 All Star Futures Game.  Days later, he leaped from AA to the Twins' everyday lineup.  With his size and smile (and sprinkled with the eternal resentment Twins fans feel over losing David Ortiz for nothing 11 years ago), he was annointed "Little Papi."  Vargas became the third player in MLB history to tally at least 34 hits and at least 24 RBI over his first calendar month in the majors.  The other two: Joe DiMaggio and Albert Pujols.

Saturday, September 20, 2014


Brad Bombardir was an original member of the Minnesota Wild.  He was a steady stay-at-home defenseman for four seasons, including the 2003 Western Conference Finalist club.  At the 2004 trade deadline, he was dealt to Nashville.  He returned to the Wild after his playing career ended in 2005, originally serving as an occasional television commentator and in community and player relations.  Bombardir currently serves as the Wild's Director of Player Development.

Thursday, September 11, 2014


Earl Battey was one of the early Twins greats.  In fact, prior to the arrival of Joe Mauer, there was no debate -- Earl Battey was the greatest catcher in Twins history.

Battey won his first Gold Glove award in his first season as an everyday player for the Washington Senators in 1960.  He would three-peat as the AL's Gold Glove catcher over the Twins' first two seasons in 1961-1962.  In 1962, he appeared in both the mid-season and post-season All Star Games -- the first two of his five All Star appearances as a Twin.

Battey passed away in 2003 after a battle with cancer.  The following year, he was posthumously inducted into the Twins Hall of Fame.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014


Baseball history is full of backup catchers who manage to play forever despite not being able to hit.  Tom Prince is a prime example.  He spent parts of 17 years in the big leagues, but only appeared in 519 games.  And in those games, he put up a .208 career batting average.

Prince signed with the Twins as a 36 year old free agent in 2001.  That was, of course, the pivotal year in Twins history where, in the face of contraction, the young nucleus of Hunter, Mientkiewicz, Jones, Koskie, and Guzman came together to give the Twins their first winning season in nine years (in manager Tom Kelly's final season).  Prince appeared in 64 games as A.J. Pierzynski's backup and mentor.  In his 15th big league season, he established new career highs with 215 plate appearances and seven home runs.